Spring Training Storylines

By Biertempfel, Rob | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 15, 2015 | Go to article overview

Spring Training Storylines


Biertempfel, Rob, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Infield in flux

Will Pedro Alvarez's transition to first base succeed? Now that Josh Harrison, a utilityman last spring, is the everyday guy at third, can he produce an encore to his breakout 2014 season? Will Jung Ho Kang challenge Jordy Mercer at shortstop, or will Kang play multiple positions? With no indications a contract extension is imminent, will second baseman Neil Walker become trade bait? What happens over the next seven weeks in Florida only will begin to clarify the infield situation. It will take months for the full picture to come into focus.

The 5th starter

It should be a tight battle between top candidates Vance Worley and Jeff Locke. The edge in experience goes to the right-hander Worley, who has one more year in the bigs and 18 more games pitched than the lefty Locke. Worley also owns better career numbers:

Pitcher G W-L IP ERA FIP WHIP SO/BB

Worley 81 27-22 437.0 3.75 3.76 1.387 2.55

Locke 63 18-19 348.2 4.00 4.32 1.362 1.74

Also in the mix, to varying degrees, are Brandon Cumpton, Radhames Liz, Stolmy Pimentel and Clayton Richard. Liz has a sizzling fastball, but his control issues might make him better suited for the bullpen. Pimentel has not been a regular starter since he was with Triple-A Indy in 2013. Richard, a nonroster invitee, must show he is healthy.

Retooling the bullpen

What's the best way to get the ball to closer Mark Melancon? The answer can change from one game to the next, depending upon who is rested and healthy and how they match up against hitters. Manager Clint Hurdle must figure out how/when to use lefties Tony Watson and Antonio Bastardo in a setup role. Was John Holdzkom a flash in the pan? Can Jared Hughes continue to induce ground-ball outs? And who will be the Plan B closer on days when Melancon needs a blow?

Projected bullpen: Closer Mark Melancon, RHP Jared Hughes, LHP Tony Watson, LHP Antonio Bastardo, RHP John Holdzkom, RHP Radhames Liz, RHP Stolmy Pimentel

Goodbye, Pirate City

The Pirates spend the first dozen or so days of camp at Pirate City, which is a year-round training complex a couple of miles across town from McKechnie Field. …

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